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MastersHoping

Typos/errors in published pieces?

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Hi everyone,

     This post is half meant to discuss strategies for preventing typos, half for me to vent my frustration :( . 

     Just published a piece that took about 3 years from start to finish, and when it was accepted for publication I was so excited. I proofread it about 5 times and had two friends proofread it too. Alas, just a few days ago, I noticed a couple more errors. Minor errors, but errors nonetheless. 

     Anyone have some strategies to better catch errors like these in the future? Also, does anyone else have publication with small typographical errors or spelling/grammar errors on them? 

 

Thanks! 

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It's quite rare to encounter an article that doesn't have some typo or grammatical infelicities. It's not a big deal, especially if you took the time to proofread. Remember, it went through the journal's copy editor, too.

As for strategies... I find it easiest to spot these things when I actually print out the document. 

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39 minutes ago, maxhgns said:

It's quite rare to encounter an article that doesn't have some typo or grammatical infelicities. It's not a big deal, especially if you took the time to proofread. Remember, it went through the journal's copy editor, too.

As for strategies... I find it easiest to spot these things when I actually print out the document. 

Thank you! You made me feel better, especially since this is my first independent and legitimate publication. I was so excited about the publication then I saw the typos and felt so embarrassed. 

 

Hmm maybe next time I'll try printing it out and have a pen handy so I can circle everything I find.

 

Oh, and I also find reading out loud a good way too! 

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This happens all the time. I have stopped caring, and I only check for really obvious typos or typos that change the meaning and cause misunderstanding. For me and for most people in my field, it's not a big deal at all. There was a really important paper in my field last year that gave a very comprehensive review of an important technique. In one of the figures, there's an obvious typo. It's much harder to change text in a graph. But this figure appears in tons of presentations/talks etc. and no one bats an eye. We all know what it's supposed to say.

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I was sort of relieved when I found the first typo in my dissertation. They're unavoidable, and finding that first one helped me accept that it's not going to be perfect and that's okay. My entire committee and several colleagues read my dissertation before I submitted it; so did quite a few other people after publication. Still, I found a surprising number of small mistakes as I prepared the book manuscript based on this work. I've updated some crucial mistakes in the online version of the dissertation on my website but otherwise I don't usually worry about such things. 

My best tip for finding typos other than having multiple people read the draft is to use some text-to-speech tool. Those can read your text back to you and that can actually be a fairly productive way of both finding typos and improving your writing more generally. It is, however, somewhat time-consuming, and not always worth it. 

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When I edit a hard copy, I type the edits in reverse page order. Almost makes the document feel “New” because you’re looking at it in a different order, and you’ll catch stuff you didn’t see in your first read-through.

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Thanks everyone! I feel a lot more relieved after reading your responses, and have more strategies for avoiding such errors in the future. 

Also, at least I didn't do this XD 

 

http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/11/11/_crappy_gabor_paper_overly_honest_citation_slips_into_peer_reviewed_journal.html 

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Read it out loud. Read it as if you're giving a speech off it. This is especially helpful if you have someone who'll listen to you. Ultimately, you'll find yourself trying to convince your listener of the case stated in your paper. Also, given that you'll have to stop and explain some concepts, that may prove invaluable in terms of discovering new (better) ways of explaining, new ideas or nuanced ways of seeing ones you've established in your work. This practice has even led me to (altogether) new writing projects.

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On 1/20/2018 at 7:03 AM, MastersHoping said:

Anyone have some strategies to better catch errors like these in the future? Also, does anyone else have publication with small typographical errors or spelling/grammar errors on them? 

(FWIW, this conversation is a discussion about tactics, not strategy.)

Read a printed version of the document backwards word by word.

Assemble a red team with at least one member who is tasked with finding typos and grammatical errors and nothing else. This scrub will be the penultimate or last tasks performed by the red team.

Find a certified court reporter and pay the person to proof read your document.

Use a search feature to look for common typing mistakes like extra periods and white spaces. Be careful in your use of the replace function, though.

On 1/20/2018 at 8:21 AM, TakeruK said:

This happens all the time. I have stopped caring, and I only check for really obvious typos or typos that change the meaning and cause misunderstanding. For me and for most people in my field, it's not a big deal at all. There was a really important paper in my field last year that gave a very comprehensive review of an important technique. In one of the figures, there's an obvious typo. It's much harder to change text in a graph. But this figure appears in tons of presentations/talks etc. and no one bats an eye. We all know what it's supposed to say.

FWIW, I make my living as a writer at a consultancy. For better and worse, many segments of the private and public sectors have stopped caring. Quality control is expensive and the return is hard for project managers to quantify, especially when clients don't bat an eye. (Lawyers and certain kinds of bureaucrats still notice. The former cannot be avoided. The latter must be satisfied and then fired as clients.)

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2 hours ago, Sigaba said:

(Lawyers and certain kinds of bureaucrats still notice. The former cannot be avoided. The latter must be satisfied and then fired as clients.)

This part is very broadly applicable to academia too for other things that are time/effort expensive but bring you little gain (e.g. those requesting extra analysis that won't reveal anything insightful). Just replace:

lawyers --> referees,

bureaucrats --> coauthors, and

"fired as clients" ---> "consider carefully if they will add value before inviting them as coauthors again".

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This is interesting, because despite the increase in these sorts of errors, which I would lay almost entirely at the feet of publishers foisting copy-editing duties onto authors (looking at you, CUP), my subfield still cares a lot about them. This is in part because of the particular technical demands of medieval history: if you are working with a medieval manuscript, the failure of attention to detail which missed the double "the" in your article makes me wonder what paleographic details you might have also missed. So even as standards decline, these sorts of errors can still have professional consequences.

On the other hand, there's Gaiman's Law: "Picking up your first copy of a book you wrote, if there’s one typo, it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up."

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Turns out my first publication has a typo in the title that's not replicated elsewhere in the text. I don't know if it's my fault or the copy editor's, and it can't be changed. But it's no big deal. Most people won't notice it (it's a 'c' for an 's', and everyone will assume it's a British vs. American English thing. But I know it's not, and that the word in the title designates something slightly different.) I only noticed it because I was recently refereeing a reply, and so re-read my paper.

So there you have it. At least your typos weren't in the title!

Edited by maxhgns

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